In your quest for a gravity-defying derriere, you’re probably focusing a lot on your glutes lately. But with all those squats, lunges, step-ups and hip thrusts, you don’t want to jump right into your glute workout — or dash out after the last rep. This is the biggest muscle group in your body, after all. Studies show that a proper dynamic warm-up will improve your range of motion and performance. It also preps your body for movement, reducing risk of injury. And when the work is done, a series of static glute stretches will help enhance flexibility and release any tightness or tension in the glutes and hips.
So we tapped Jessica Matthews, yoga teacher, author of Stretching to Stay Young and senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), for the five glute-centric stretches you should never skip. No ifs, ands or butts about it.
5 Ah-Mazing Glute Stretches
1. Rocking Hip-to-Heel Stretch
Do this dynamic stretch as a warm-up. “It will enhance hip mobility while prepping your body for exercises like squats,” says Matthews.
Try it: Starting on all fours, cross your left ankle over your right lower leg (a). Shift hips back toward the right heel, and hold for one to two seconds (b). Shift forward to realign shoulders over wrists, and continue to rock for six to eight reps (c). Repeat on the opposite side.
2. Side-to-Side Hip Shifts
Add this one to your dynamic warm-up, too, says Matthews. This hip mobility-boosting stretch will prep your body to move laterally for exercises like lunges or shuffles.
Try it: Starting on your hands and knees, slowly shift your hips to the right (a). Hold for one to two seconds, then shift to the opposite side (b). Do six to eight reps.
Tack this onto the end of a lower-body workout, but also fit it into your routine if you regularly walk, run, hike or bike, says Matthews. It will release tension in both the glutes and hips.
Try it: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle above your left knee and open your right knee to the right (a). Lift your left foot off the ground, keeping the left knee bent. Thread your right arm through the space between legs and reach left arm around left leg to interlace hands behind left thigh (b). Guide left knee toward chest and hold for 30 to 60 seconds (c). Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Half Lord of the Fishes
This stretch isn’t just for gym rats. If you sit at a desk all day, you’re apt to feel some low-back and hip pain. This move will help release that tension. It might also help alleviate symptoms of sciatica, a nerve condition where pain radiates from your lower back down one leg, says Matthews.
Try it: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over left thigh (a). Plant your right palm behind your right hip with fingers pointed away from your body. Inhale and lift your left arm toward the ceiling and lengthen your spine (b). Exhale and gently rotate your torso to the right, hugging your right knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (c). Switch sides and repeat.
5. Half Pigeon Variation
If yoga is part of your weekly routine, you’re familiar with pigeon pose. This variation combines hip flexion with a more controlled rotation of the hip joint for a safer stretch. The deep stretch targets all three muscles that make up the glutes.
Try it: Get on your hands and knees and extend your left leg behind you until your hip is fully extended (a). Position your right heel between the midline of the body (pubic bone) and the left hip, allowing your right hip to open slightly. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (b). Repeat on the opposite side.